The Sega Genesis is a fourth-generation home gaming console released by Sega in 1989. It was extremely successful and was the only major competitor of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Beat em’ ups, also known as brawlers, are a genre of gaming in which the player must fight their way through small groups of enemies to progress to the next level. They have simple but action-packed gameplay making them perfect for playing alongside a friend. With so many different Sega Genesis beat ‘em up games available, you could have easily missed playing one in your years of gaming. Use our list of all Sega Genesis beat em ‘up games to make sure you have played them all.
Despite their name, I do not consider platformer beat em’ up games to be true beat em’ ups. I have always thought that one of the core mechanics of real beat em’ up games is the ability to move along the Z-axis and not just the X and Y. The added depth always felt as though they gave the games a more advanced combat system compared to the flat feeling platformers. Because of this, my list might be smaller than those found on other websites, choosing to leave out popular games like Altered Beast and Two Crude Dudes. I have also chosen to leave unlicensed games off the list for obvious reasons.
Sega Genesis Beat ‘Em Up Games Ranked
#26 – Cliffhanger
Starting off our list of Sega Genesis beat ’em up games is Spidersoft’s Cliffhanger. Released in 1993 to capitalize on the feature film of the same name, Cliffhanger fails to provide hardly any enjoyment. Sadly the game suffers from a combination of clumsy controls, ugly graphics, and repetitive gameplay. Because of this, Cliffhanger easily earned its spot as last on the list.
#25 – DJ Boy
DJ Boy is a goofy beat ’em up game developed by Kaneko in 1989. It was designed as a way for the gaming industry to cash-in on the growing hip-hop culture of the United States. The game’s plot revolves around a young contestant in a fictional fight-race known as “Rollergame”. The game’s most unique aspect was that many of the characters used roller skates to get around rather than walking. It follows the standard beat ’em up format but doesn’t compare to other games in the genre.
#24 – The Death and Return of Superman
The Death and Return of Superman is a side-scrolling beat ’em up video game released for the Sega Genesis in 1994. The game’s story is closely based on the famous comic book storyline of the same name. The best part of the game is the ability for the player to take control of 4 other ‘supermen’ aside from Clark Kent. Unfortunately, the game has lackluster gameplay leaving it to be a flop amongst the fans.
#23 – Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter
The game contains a total of six stages split into 4 parts each. The first three parts of each level use basic beat ’em up format, while the last stage switches to fighting game styled gameplay for the boss fight. The mix of these game styles was pretty original but unfortunately, it wasn’t impended all that well. Additionally, the game suffered from poor graphics making it even more difficult to enjoy.
#22 – Growl
Growl is the perfect beat ’em up game for the animal lover in all of us. It is an obscure title for the Sega Genesis that was released in 1991. In the game, you play as a forest ranger devoted to protecting the local wildlife from greedy poachers. Aside from some minor changes the Genesis port of the game is almost identical to the arcade cabinet version. One of the best features of the game is the ability to rescue ‘animal helpers’ that you can use in combat.
#21 – Mystical Fighter
Mystical Fighter is a seldomly talked about beat ’em up game released in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive. The game’s story, level design, and characters are all based on Japanese mythology. One of the weirdest aspects is that the game is that the Bosses are usually easier to defeat than the normal enemies. Like the Golden Axe series, the player can collect items throughout the stages to use magical attacks.
#20 – Streets of Rage 3
Streets of Rage 3 is a side-scrolling beat ’em up developed in 1994 by Sega for the Mega Drive. It is the third game in the Streets of Rage series and the final game of the original trilogy. The game has a lot of new mechanics from the other two games in the series. Some of these changes include a complex plot, longer levels, character dialog, and faster gameplay. The game has 6 playable characters in total with two of them being secret. All in all, Streets of Rage 3 is a fitting ending to a great series.
#19 – Battletoads/Double Dragon
Battletoads & Double Dragon – The Ultimate Team is one of the most well know Mega Drive beat ’em up games of all time. It was originally released for the NES but was ported to the Genesis later the same year. Being a crossover of Battletoads and Double Dragon, the game allows for the player to control any of the characters from either game. Additionally, the game uses enemies from both franchises to fill the bad guy roaster.
#18 – Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon was released for the Sega Genesis in the summer of 1994. In the game, the player could control each of the five original Sailor Soldiers for a set level. This is opposed to the normal ‘pick your character’ format seen in other Mega Drive beat ’em up games. Sailor Moon had beautiful sprites and decent gameplay but received mixed reviews from critics. Many believed the game lacked originality and only was cashing in on the popularity of the cartoon.
#17 – Golden Axe 3
Golden Axe 3 is the third and final game of the original Golden Axe Trilogy. Unfortunately, because of its poor reception, the game was never released in the United States. Expanding on the other games in the series, Golden Axe 3 added new characters and new types of moves(teamwork attacks and teamwork magic spells) to the formula. Additionally, the game added multiple paths the player could take to reach the end of the levels to increase replayability.
#16 – Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety
Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety is another comic-themed beat ’em up game created to be a sequel to Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage. Despite its name, the game’s story is based on the Venom limited comic series, Venom: Lethal Protector. Unfortunately, the game received bad reviews stating it was both repetitive and unoriginal.
#15 – Cyborg Justice
Cyborg Justice is a side-scrolling beat ’em up video game and released in 1993 for the Sega Mega Drive. The plot follows an unwilling cyborg attempting to escape a mining colony he is forced to work in. Cyborg Justice features gameplay common to most Sega Genesis beat ’em up games of the time. The most interesting aspect of the game is the unique character selection screen. Rather than choosing different characters, the player must build is a cyborg from various parts.
#14 – Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage is a 1991 side-scrolling beat ’em up game published for the Sega Genesis. The game kick-started one of the most popular beat em’ up game franchises of all time. The game itself follows three police officers as they attempt to bring down the crime lord Mr. X. Streets of Rage has 8 levels, each with its own boss with the exception of level 7. Streets of Rage is a must-play for any fan of the beat ’em up genre.
#13 – Golden Axe
Golden Axe is the first game in the incredibly popular ‘Golden Axe’ game franchise. Golden Axe is a fantasy-themed arcade brawler game ported to the Sega Mega Drive in 1989. The game allows the player to take control of one of three warriors seeking revenge against an evil dictator Death Adder. The most unique gameplay aspect of Golden Axe is the ability to ride various creatures into combat. Despite its relatively low position on the list, Golden Axe is one of the most popular Sega Genesis beat ’em up games ever made.
#12 – Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone
Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone is the third game in the Double Dragon series and was released in 1990. Rather than keeping the more advanced combat of the second game, The Rosetta Stone reverted back to the basic attack formula from the original game. Strangely, another game unrelated game ‘Double Dragon 3: The Sacred Stones’ was developed for the SNES the same year.
#11 – Power Rangers: The Movie
Power Rangers: The Movie is a 1995 beat ’em up game for the Sega Genesis that is based on a film of the same name. The game has a total of six stages and 9 playable characters. It is a pretty straightforward brawler game with smooth combat and linear storytelling. The best part about this game is that aside from playing as a Power Ranger, you can also take control of their Zords. Which is something we have all wanted to do.
#10 – Captain America and The Avengers
Captain America and The Avengers is an arcade game developed in 1991 ported to the Mega Drive the following year. It is based on characters from Marvel Comics with the same names. The game follows ‘The Avengers’ as they fight their way through waves of minions and bring down evil supervillains. The Genesis version of the game is extremely fun, but can’t compare to the joy of the 4 player arcade cabinet.
#9 – Alien Storm
Alien Storm is a 1990 beat ’em up shooter arcade game that was later ported to the Sega Mega Drive in 1991. The game has a mix of beat ’em up and shooter levels which makes for intensely fun gameplay. Many people compare it to Golden Axe(not a bad thing) due to gameplay and artistic similarities. Alien Storm has fast gameplay and uniquely scary enemies, making it a game you can return to again and again.
#8 – The Punisher!
A lot of people wouldn’t put ‘The Punisher!’ so high on the list, but I think it earned its spot. With beautiful graphics and stellar gameplay, it is truly a great game. Released in 1993 as an Arcade game, The Punisher! was eventually ported to the Sega Genesis in 1994 due to its success. The most interesting feature of this game was that you could draw and fire your sidearm at any time. The downside of the Sega version is its high censorship and reduced enemy variety.
#7 – Battletoads
Battletoads is a brawler game originally released in 1991 but not ported to the Sega Genesis until 1993. The game follows three humanoid frogs as they attempt to stop a villain named the Dark Queen. Interestingly, It was created and developed mainly to compete with the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise. However, Battletoads is still beloved by fans for its humor and high difficulty.
#6 – Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage is a comic-themed beat ’em up game released for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1994. The game is heavily based on the comic book story arc of the same name. The best feature of the game is the large number of Marvel heroes and villains to make appearances. The original game was sold with red game cartridges as opposed to the normal black ones.
#5 – Splatterhouse 3
Splatterhouse 3 is a violent horror-themed beat’em up game released by Namco for the Sega Genesis in 1993. The game follows a man named Rick as he uses the power of the ‘Terror Mask’ to save his family from bloodthirsty monsters. The most original part of the game was it’s nonlinear gameplay. Rather than scrolling through the level, the player would be forced to backtrack while searching for the exit. Unlike most games on this list, Splatterhouse 3 was given an MA-13 rating for having extreme violence and gore.
#4 – Double Dragon 2
Double Dragon II: The Revenge is a Sega Genesis beat ’em up game that was only released in Japan in 1991. Unlike the older NES version, the Genesis version of the game is an exact port of the original arcade game. It features all of the same stages and animations of the game along with most of the enemy characters. Along with Final Fight and Streets of Rage, the Double Dragon is among the most popular beat em’ games franchises
#3 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist
The Hyperstone Heist is a Sega Genesis game released in 1992 based on the successful arcade game, Turtles in Time. Unlike the Super Nintendo port of Turtles In Time, The Hyperstone Heist made significant changes to the game. It reduced the number of levels but also increased the game speed and length of each level to make up for it. This made for more action-packed gameplay than its SNES counterpart. In my opinion, the biggest loss was that the player could no longer throw enemies towards the screen. Bummer.
#2 – Golden Axe 2
I would have personally liked for this game to be number 1, but after polling some people it became clear that wasn’t the case. Golden Axe II is a 1991 hack n’ slash beat ’em up game developed released exclusively on the Sega Genesis. It is a sequel to ‘Golden Axe’ and sees the return of its three playable characters, Ax, Tyris, and Gilius. The game has six levels and a final endgame boss fight that is no joke.
#1 – Streets of Rage 2
To be honest, this was an extremely hard decision but in the end Streets of Rage 2 had to come out on top. Streets of Rage 2 was published by Sega in 1992 for the Sega Genesis as the second side-scrolling beat ’em up game in the Streets of Rage series. It brings back two characters from the first game and introduces two new ones as well. The game has 8 levels each with its own boss the player must defeat to progress.
Were any of these games your favorite? Did we miss any games on our list of Sega Genesis beat ’em up games? If you answered YES to either of these questions I would love to hear about it in the comments.